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Using Data in a (Mis)Information Age

Digital tech can be powerful, but it also ironically opens the door to misinformation and disinformation. This can be a problem for economic developers

Alissa Sklar
↵ Back to blog
on November 10, 2016
Alissa Sklar
Vice President of Marketing

If you are one of those people who figured it "couldn't hurt" to repost a Facebook status about Disney cruises, all-inclusive Barbados vacations or scary sounding privacy violations, you were wrong. 


clickfarming clickjacking type AMENScammers will stop at nothing to "farm" likes and reposts, which helps their pages float to the top of Facebook's search algorithm. With this kind of "clickjacking," they change their content, tricking people into giving out personal information or download malicious software. They will ask for "Amens" or likes with pictures of sick babies or injured animals usually stolen from private pages without permission.


Not only does your blessing NOT help anyone, it can actually hurt them. Families feel violated to see images of their kids used in this way, without consent. Unsuspecting users can be taken advantage of by scammers, or inadvertently contribute to others being harassed. Copying and pasting statuses with code embedded can lead your account to being hacked, and your friends may fall victim to these scams if they follow your lead. If you aren't sure, you can always check verification sites like Snopes.com and Hoax-Slayer.net.



Digital technology offers us access to the most powerful communication technology in the history of humankind, but it also ironically opens the door to misinformation and disinformation. And it can be very difficult to parse out what's real, and what's not. What's reliable, and what's out of date. What is complete, and what has been taken out of context. As consumers of information, we sometimes give too much weight to clever-sounding arguments simply because they appear in print or in credible places on the Internet.


Consider this image of a wolf pack, which has been shared countless times on LinkedIn and in blog posts, with the following caption:wolfpack.jpg

"A pack (wolves): The first 3 are the older or sick and they set the pace of the group. If it was on the contrary, they would be left behind and lost contact with the pack. In ambush case they would be sacrificed. The following are the 5 strongest. In the center follow the remaining members of the pack, and at the end of the group follow the other 5 stronger. Last, alone, follows the alpha wolf. It controls everything from the rear. That position can control the whole group, decide the direction to follow and anticipate the attacks of opponents. The pack follows the rhythm of the elders and the head of the command that imposes the spirit of mutual help not leaving anyone behind."


Sounds like a lovely analogy for management or business leadership, right? Only it's all wrong. Scientists have debunked the whole concept of an "alpha" wolf asserting dominance over a pack. And it's the stronger animals who lead the group in order to create a path through the snow, not the old and sick.

Why does this matter? And what on earth does this have to do with economic development?


As purveyors of economic development and site selection data, we work tirelessly to ensure our clients offer the gold standard in site selection and GIS data on their websites. That means providing robust, comprehensive, up-to-date, reliable information on an exceptional array of variables, including demographics, labor force, business, industry, GIS, energy, talent pool, consumer spending, housing and transportation. We help you slice and dice this data from the hyperregional down to the hyperlocal, at national, state (or province), county, MSA, city, town and block group level. You can view this on-demand video to learn more about the 10 "musts" of economic development data


As part of our work to provide top-quality data, we feel a commitment to educate economic developers about the poor quality information circulating out there for the unsuspecting: Data sets that can't be properly analyzed, that are out of date, incomplete or superficial. Companies that charge outrageous extras for access to analytics that should actually be bundled together with your software, or for customer service care that should be rightfully included. Expensive courses that offer false "credits" and pretend "universities" full of questionable economic development marketing information.


We urge you not to settle for misinformation. The site selectors, local stakeholders and businesses seeking locations on your website expect the very best quality data they can find. Strive to offer it.

When I was a university professor, I expected my students to consider carefully the source of information they got, to engage with it and test it, then to use it strategically. That is equally the goal of all economic development organizations. Demand the very best information you can find. Consider the source. Question what you find. 


Click here to get in touch if you would like to know more about how your organization can take advantage of top quality economic development data.